Are you about creating a prototype for your invention? If YES, here is how much you should spend on the prototype of your invention and how to go about it.

If your idea has gotten to the stage of building a prototype, then you are much closer to fulfilling your dream. At this stage, your invention is almost ready to make its first public appearance, which is, meeting with investors. But before it can do this, there are certain things you have to take note of. Before we delve into that, let us first look at what constitutes a prototype.

What is an Invention Prototype?

According to Techopedia, a prototype is an example that serves as a basis for future models. This then means that a prototype is the first glimpse of how the product or invention would look like in real life. Prototyping gives designers ample opportunity to research new alternatives for the product, while testing the original design to confirm the functionality of the product prior to mass production.

As the preliminary or model representation of the final product, prototypes can be taken to photoshoots, trade shows and presentations. A prototype can be done in the exact dimension, a larger or smaller scale depending on the product in question. Prototypes help the inventor decide if the product is quite large or quite small, if the product looks good in real life, if people will like it, and if the cost of manufacturing it is affordable.

The final product is often as a result of a mix of design, marketing and engineering input, as well as user interaction with the prototype model. There are various types of prototype models in the tech industry, and they include; visual prototype, proof-of-concept prototype and presentation prototype.

The material to use in making your prototype would depend entirely on your budget and your goals. You can use wood, plastic, leather, neoprene or something basically rudimentary like milk containers and household glue.

Why Make a Prototype?

There are several reasons why inventors make a prototype of their invention before making the full version, and they include;

  • To discover invention failings: most times, new inventions have a couple of defects that may not be discovered until the invention has been put together, and sometimes ready for the market. A prototype is the most inexpensive way to discover faults in designs before introducing the product finally to the market.
  • To get financial support: showing the prototype of an invention to investors can help convince them of the feasibility of the idea, and help sway them towards investing in your idea.
  • Patent filing made easy: having the prototype of an idea at hand would help facilitate filing for patent for the idea. But you should know that having a prototype is not a requirement for getting a patent for your idea.
  • Increased user participation: when a prototype is created, consumers or users get the opportunity to study it and make suggestions. Because they are the ones that would make use of the product finally, so it is quite beneficial to bring consumers into the mix. You don’t want to invent a product that nobody would buy. Consumers can also help you improve the product so you can develop a more appealing and workable invention.
  • Proof of workability: finally, a prototype is essentially a proof that your invention can actually work in real life situations. A design prototype presents the product in real life to better demonstrate and analyze the product.

Creating an Invention Prototype – How Much Should You Spend?

It just doesn’t make sense for you to go right ahead into mass production of your product/service idea without first testing the idea in the market to see if it is going to do well or not. You might be so convinced within your mind that since your product is such a great one, that there is just no way it won’t sell but the market may have some unpleasant surprises for you.

It is impossible to predict the market except you have done a little bit of research and with the results you get, you are convinced that your product will do well.

One of the ways to test the market response to your product before mass production is to create a prototype of the product. In fact, a prototype would not only help you understand market perception and response to your business idea, it can also be used to show your potential investors or bankers what your product looks like before asking them for a loan.

Now the million-dollar question is how much do you spend on creating this prototype especially since you might not have a lot of money to spend at the point of creating your product prototype? We have figured everything out for you in this article.

Steps to Creating a Prototype for your invention idea

  1. Create Your Prototype for Free

Whether it is a product or service, you can test your idea for free without having to create anything. The whole point of creating a prototype is to test market response to the product- would people buy it? Will they like it? How much would they be willing to pay for it?

You can know all of these for free without having to create an actual product. What you simply need to do is to create an opt-in form with photos, features and the benefits of using your product or service on it and then host the form on your website.

The form should have a ‘buy now’ button and a price on it or it should have a ‘learn more’ button if you don’t want it to seem like you are deceiving your potential customers since you don’t exactly have anything to sell. But your potential customers don’t know this now do they?

So each time someone clicks on your buy button, you know that they are willing to purchase your product. That way, you are able to do a prototype test of your product without spending a dime.

2. Hire a Professional Prototype Developer

Sometimes, you do have to create a prototype of your product so that the design and functionality of your product can be tested and necessary adjustments can be made if need be. This means that the aforementioned tip cannot exactly work for you. This means that you have to spend some money to create a product prototype. One way to cut costs for this is to hire a professional to help you.

There are professional prototype developers and designers who specialize in making prototypes and charge way less than commercial product designers. With just a fraction of what you would have spent to hire a commercial product designer/developer, you would have a prototype of your invention sitting in your lap.

3. Use Rapid Prototyping Technology

You can save thousands of dollars creating your own product prototype by using a technology known as rapid prototyping. With this technology, you can have plastic prototypes of your product made and it would only cost you a couple hundred dollars compared to creating injection mold prototypes which might cost $10,000 – $100,000 to make.

4. Make Your Product Prototype Yourself

Another cheap option is to create your product prototype yourself using materials sourced from your local hardware store.

Of course this would depend on the type of product that you are trying to create. If your invention is such that you can afford to make a prototype at home, then it is best to just make a list of everything you need, visit the hardware store, get your tools and materials, and then make your product cheaply.

5. Use the Fabrication Lab at Your Local University/College

Some technical colleges or universities with technical departments have fabrication laboratories that their students use for fabricating products. You can find out if your local university has one that you can use. You would have access to tools and machinery that you can use for free, and you would be able to save a lot of cost.

6. Take Similar Products Apart

Well, this depends on the type of product you are trying to create but if there are competitors whose products are similar to yours, you can take their own products apart and then use it to create your own product as an improved or varied version of yours.

7. Make a Photo sketch of Your Product

If testing the functionality of your product is not so important, you can consider making a photo sketch of your product. You can get a good graphics designer to create a photo image of the product showing all the sides or you can consider drawing the product yourself using a hand sketch.

You must understand that this only applies to products that don’t really require testing functionality because for a lot of products, you have to see how it would actually work.

8. Do A Computer-Aided Design Prototype

You can get a professional who is skilled at making Computer-Aided Design Product Prototypes to make one for you. Again, this is way cheaper than having to create the real thing. People would be able to see a detailed sketch of your product with all the parts and sides included.

However, you have to do your homework very well and ensure that you hire only certified professionals and not quacks.

You should also know that the amount to spend on creating a product prototype completely depends on you and how much you are willing to spend in your budget. From the tips offered above, you can make your product prototype for free, spend a couple of hundred dollars or thousands of dollars; it all depends on what you are able to afford.

Now every stage of an invention is precarious and more precarious is showing your invention to potential investors as a number of things can go wrong. So, here are 5 dangers to avoid when showing your invention prototype to investors;

5 Dangers to Avoid When Showing your Invention Prototype to Investors

i. Avoid showing your prototype without protection

Presenting your invention prototype to investors entails showing the product and explaining the idea behind it and how it works. When doing this, it is very easy for an investor to copy the idea, produce and take it to the market before you.

So when presenting your prototype to investors, you should ensure that the invention is protected by the law, if not, the product idea might be easily stolen and replicated by another company. Instances abound of how inventors have lost their product ideas to companies they went to seek financing from.

In order to avoid this pitfall, you have to, as a matter of necessity, patent your invention before you take it out to the public. If you are not able to patent your invention just yet due to one reason or the other, you would do yourself a world of good to obtain a Confidentiality Agreement also called a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and get the people you want to disclose your invention to to sign it. This agreement states that the recipient has seen your invention and he agrees not to tell anyone about it or use your invention in any way for a specific time.

Again, getting a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement before revealing your invention prevents the disclosure of the idea from being called a public disclosure. A public disclosure starts the clock ticking on the filing date of your patent application, and you only have a year from that date to file for patent, otherwise you would forfeit the patent.
You should also note that companies may not be willing to sign your agreement, at least at first, so you have to convince them of the viability and usefulness of your product.

ii. Avoid believing everything you hear

Sometimes, companies can be willing to sign a Confidentiality Agreement with an inventor but not to purchase or fund the invention. These nefarious companies rather plan on taking the inventors’ money by selling him high priced services for an invention that might not be patentable, or only capable of receiving very narrow patent coverage.

The plan is to gain the confidence of the inventor by sweet talking him or her into hiring them to do a variety of work for them for a fee. They may claim they will do a patent search for you, but they end up getting a patent contrary to what your invention needs which would then be worthless to you.

They take advantage of the fact that new inventors are not familiar with patents and patent searches. They also take advantage of new inventors’ inadequate knowledge of how licensing works and they charge incredibly exorbitant rates for these searches.

As an inventor, you need to be watchful so as to avoid such traps. One way to do this is to know the capabilities of your product, and do adequate research to ascertain if it can be patented, and what level of coverage it can get. Also, you need to do a thorough research on the company you want to present your product to in order to ascertain their genuineness.

iii. Avoid being greedy

Many times, independent inventors are so enamored with their inventions that they rate them so highly. While it is good to have great confidence in your ability, but this is where you need to put the brakes. When presenting your invention to investors or companies, you need to be able to accept constructive criticisms and avoid being overly greedy or else you may lose a chance at sponsorship.

This advice is appropriate especially for fledgling inventors who are still taking a stab at the market. You need to be willing to start small, even if the royalties or payment you get is not equal to the invention.

iv. Avoid going unprepared

When going to show your prototype to investors, you need to go prepared by carrying out adequate research on your product first and the company you are marketing to. If the prototype of your invention is an improvement on a product a company already has, then it is possible that the company might pay for an idea that would expand their existing market substantially, but you need to conduct a thorough market research before you go to them.

You need to find out how big the potential market would be. Find out if they would be distributing the product to retail outlets and states that they do not currently serve, or if it would appear in the same market. Answering questions like these before meeting the companies would help you negotiate better royalties or buy-out fees.

v. Avoid giving your presentations at trade shows

Trade shows are where you meet potential licensees or investors who can adopt your invention, but you need to avoid giving your presentation to them at the trade show out of excitement. When you do this, since they are distracted, they may set it aside, lose it, or even turn it down on the spot because the invention or product has not been explained thoroughly to them.

To avoid this situation, never present your invention at trade shows or any other place that is prone to distractions. Just meet them, get their card and make an appointment with them where you can now make your pitch comfortably.

In conclusion, pitching your invention to companies is the easiest way to take your invention to the market and earn money from it, but you need to be careful so you don’t ruin your chances with avoidable mistakes.

Ajaero Tony Martins